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It is well understood that Bayesian decision theory and average case analysis are essentially identical. However, if one is interested in performing uncertainty quantification for a numerical task, it can be argued that the decision-theoretic framework is neither appropriate nor sufficient. To this end, we consider an alternative optimality criterion from Bayesian experimental design and study its implied optimal information in the numerical context. This information is demonstrated to differ, in general, from the information that would be used in an average-case-optimal numerical method. The explicit connection to Bayesian experimental design suggests several distinct regimes in which optimal probabilistic numerical methods can be developed.

This article attempts to place the emergence of probabilistic numerics as a mathematical-statistical research field within its historical context and to explore how its gradual development can be related to modern formal treatments and applications. We highlight in particular the parallel contributions of Sul'din and Larkin in the 1960s and how their pioneering early ideas have reached a degree of maturity in the intervening period, mediated by paradigms such as average-case analysis and information-based complexity. We provide a subjective assessment of the state of research in probabilistic numerics and highlight some difficulties to be addressed by future works.

This article extends the framework of Bayesian inverse problems in infinite-dimensional parameter spaces, as advocated by Stuart (Acta Numer. 19:451–559, 2010) and others, to the case of a heavy-tailed prior measure in the family of stable distributions, such as an infinite-dimensional Cauchy distribution, for which polynomial moments are infinite or undefined. It is shown that analogues of the Karhunen–Loève expansion for square-integrable random variables can be used to sample such measures. Furthermore, under weaker regularity assumptions than those used to date, the Bayesian posterior measure is shown to depend Lipschitz continuously in the Hellinger metric upon perturbations of the misfit function and observed data.

For Kendall’s shape space we determine analytically Jacobi fields and parallel transport, and compute geodesic regression. Using the derived expressions, we can fully leverage the geometry via Riemannian optimization and reduce the computational expense by several orders of magnitude. The methodology is demonstrated by performing a longitudinal statistical analysis of epidemiological shape data.
As application example we have chosen 3D shapes of knee bones, reconstructed from image data of the Osteoarthritis Initiative. Comparing subject groups with incident and developing osteoarthritis versus normal controls, we find clear differences in the temporal development of femur shapes. This paves the way for early prediction of incident knee osteoarthritis, using geometry data only.

We consider the use of randomised forward models and log-likelihoods within the Bayesian approach to inverse problems. Such random approximations to the exact forward model or log-likelihood arise naturally when a computationally expensive model is approximated using a cheaper stochastic surrogate, as in Gaussian process emulation (kriging), or in the field of probabilistic numerical methods. We show that the Hellinger distance between the exact and approximate Bayesian posteriors is bounded by moments of the difference between the true and approximate log-likelihoods. Example applications of these stability results are given for randomised misfit models in large data applications and the probabilistic solution of ordinary differential equations.

Over forty years ago average-case error was proposed in the applied mathematics literature as an alternative criterion with which to assess numerical methods. In contrast to worst-case error, this criterion relies on the construction of a probability measure over candidate numerical tasks, and numerical methods are assessed based on their average performance over those tasks with respect to the measure. This paper goes further and establishes Bayesian probabilistic numerical methods as solutions to certain inverse problems based upon the numerical task within the Bayesian framework. This allows us to establish general conditions under which Bayesian probabilistic numerical methods are well defined, encompassing both the non-linear and non-Gaussian context. For general computation, a numerical approximation scheme is proposed and its asymptotic convergence established. The theoretical development is extended to pipelines of computation, wherein probabilistic numerical methods are composed to solve more challenging numerical tasks. The contribution highlights an important research frontier at the interface of numerical analysis and uncertainty quantification, and a challenging industrial application is presented.